Do you have any sacred cows? (Go fish)

Do you have any sacred cows? No, I don’t actually mean holy cattle—you know the cliché: something you absolutely cannot sacrifice.

We may be flexible about a lot of things in our writing—or not. During the various stages of development, we may be attached to certain characters or events or even words that we just refuse to part with in later drafts.

Until we take our perfect (or pretty good) little baby out into the bright light of scrutiny and let our critique partners and beta readers tear into her. Sometimes an innocent little comment (“this doesn’t feel like the right word”) can feel like a full-fledged attack when we’re so attached to that word.

But eventually, we often find that after a little time and thought, it’s not really as important as we thought—maybe it’s not the right word, or maybe the connotations aren’t what we’re going for. Maybe this character really is redundant. Maybe this event isn’t quite as critical as we thought—after all, they only accomplish X and couldn’t we put that in this scene . . . ?

And sometimes, no matter how much we think about it, there’s nothing we can do to “fix” it—or nothing we’re willing to do. This might be because our CP hasn’t seen our whole or latest draft, so they don’t know the full significance, or it might be a theme they didn’t notice. Or it might be an irrational attachment.

Sometimes we’re advised that there are no sacred cows—we should be prepared to change any- and everything in the quest to create the best book (and/or get published). But I wonder if being willing to lose everything is really the best route to create a better book.

What do you think? Are there really NO sacred cows? Are there things you absolutely could not change, even if it meant the difference between a million-dollar advance and bubkis?

Picture by Gamerscore Blog

4 thoughts on “Do you have any sacred cows? (Go fish)”

  1. If I could change my ms to land a million dollar advance I’d do it in a second.
    Then again, there are plenty of writers with million-dollar advances who write bupkis.

  2. My sacred cows all have to do with using “people first language.” I will never use words that are hurtful to people with disabilities and their families: moron, idiot, imbecile, retard, crip, spas….

  3. Hmmm… a thought-provoking question. I don’t *think* I have any sacred cows, but I know that if I were asked to give a character some trait(s) that would make him into someone who acted in a way I couldn’t condone, I’d have to negotiate a way around that request, million dollar advance or not. Hopefully I never face that situation because I would hate to be seen as an unreasonable author, difficult to work with, etc.

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